What does it take to move beyond the basics in Photography?

In October 1978, the cover of National Geographic showed a self portrait of a gorilla using a camera. I’m serious—you can look it up if you would like. The cover shot was a self portrait, taken by a gorilla, and by the standards of the day it was actually pretty good!

Each year 100 million Americans also take some pretty good photos. OK, admittedly not all of them are that good . . . but with auto focus and extremely high mega pixels, it is fairly safe to say that more people are taking better pictures than ever before. So the obvious question is where does that leave us “serious” photographers?

For those of us who know that “pretty good” is not good enough, we must push ourselves further; we must create with more artistic flair and emotional impact. The desire to move beyond the basics is what separates us from . . . the gorillas of the world. Technologically advanced cameras are now so readily available than anyone can pick one up at their local Wal-Mart just as easily as getting groceries.

A great camera does not make a great photographer. Learning how to create a great photo is not as simple as one might think. There may be thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of books and magazines that will teach you the craft of photography. But learning just the craft is like running a race with only one shoe. Photography is both an art and a craft.

The craft is fairly well known; shutter speeds, f-stops, filters and the like, are an extremely important key to any photographer’s success. Of course, the craft of photography is only half the story; it’s the easy half that even a big ape could learn (yet not everyone does).

The other half, the one that even those who are looking do not always find, is the art of photography. There is a common misunderstanding that leads people to believe that “art is that which is pleasing to the eye.” While this may be true, in part, it is also incomplete. An art critic of the New York Times once said, “The function of art is to clarify, intensify, or otherwise enlarge our experience of life.”

Visit any National Park, go to a scenic lookout point, and just sit back and observe. Many people will drive up, jump out, shoot their picture, and zoom off again. This type of person is taking a picture. Simply put, he will take what is before him and discount all the creative possibilities, because he has what he wants.

On the other hand, wait a little longer and you will see someone who leaves his car slowly. He cautiously approaches the scene with silent reverence. His eyes explore like a small child in a toy store. He may stoop down low or strain his neck to see further than his body normally allows. This person is making a photograph. His mind is open to the creative possibilities.

zion 14
Zions Canyon National Park, USA


If you want to make better photos, as opposed to just taking more pictures there are some basic steps you want to remember:

1. Photograph what you like best. Photography is like a love affair; it is not to be taken lightly. You do not share your heart with every person you meet. Likewise, do not waste your passion on areas of little interest. I, for one, would never be good at aerial photography, mostly because of a fear of heights.

Photo courtesy of Bing Photos

2. Prepare yourself. Learn all that you can. Books and magazines are only part of the resources you have available. Web sites, podcasts, art galleries, and photography shows all enable you to expand your own vision. It is very hard for someone to think outside the box who has never even tried to open the lid. Give your mind something to be creative with.

photo gallery
Photo courtesy of Bing Photos

3. Become one with your subject. When the opportunity arrives, let your eyes dance across the subject. Take in the highlights and shadows. The art of seeing photographically means to go beyond the surface. Take a moment; look at it from all possible angles. Whether your subject is living or not, treat it like your best friend. This is where passion comes from.


4. Think your shots through. What emotions are you feeling when you look through your viewfinder? If you can put your feelings into words, the next step is to put those words onto film (or digital media). Have an objective in mind when you go to shoot your photos and you will make fantastic creative images–not just take average snapshots.


5. Multiply the possibilities. The right subject at the right time is what great photography is all about. Shoot your subject several times from several different angles. If this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, don’t leave anything to chance. Take multiple exposures, as well. Remember, your camera always wants to average the light. If you want better than average results, push your equipment as well as your mind.

6. Take notes. A pencil is the cheapest piece of photographic equipment you can carry. If an image is a success or a failure it means nothing unless you can do it again. Don’t change too many things at one time, lest you end up still having no idea what made the image work. Document your efforts and don’t be afraid to learn from your failures as well as your successes.

Making a photo is like drawing water from a well. If the well is dry, it doesn’t matter how many times the bucket goes up or down. Your job is to keep those creative juices flowing. As you fill the well with knowledge and experience, more inspiration will come to the surface. What gives you style or makes your work unique is what you bring to the surface. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.






Photos of the Week:  April 19th, 2018:  Amazing Beautiful World:   The Nature Has a Music For Those Who Listen.

We live in a beautiful world full of amazing things to enjoy.  And as photographers, we have the equipment to capture those amazing things around us.  We should learn from those who have captured those images.  Take the time now and enjoy these photos, and learn about how you can capture this kind of beauty to share:


abw 1



abw 2
For anyone who wonders what happened to the dinosaurs, here’s a baby blue heron.


abw 3
Beautiful Black Swan


abw 4
Beautiful Eagle-Owl With Heart Feathers


abw 5
How precious is this?  Prince charming with a future princess !!


abw 6
Cuteness overloaded


abw 7
Abraham Lincat


abw 8


abw 9



abw 10
Sugar gliders – Australia


abw 11
Beautiful family


abw 12
Mummy and her baby!


abw 13
Majestic White Tailed Eagle


abw 14
Osprey catches trout.


abw 15
So beautiful!


abw 16
Lilly of the Valley flower, the snail & the lady bug.


abw 17
After floods in England, swans in the street – Worcester


abw 18
Mont Saint-Michel, low tide.


abw 19
What a beautiful family photo!!


abw 20



abw 21
“141-year-old mother and her 3-week-old babies…”


abw 22
He perches on his tree top throne, surveying all his kingdoms own, the frozen land so far below, covered white by icy snow, looking down on forest beasts, which will be his morning feast,he’s powerful, strong, a gladiator, as meant to be by our creator, his muscles tense, his stomach hollow, the scent of flesh his instincts follow, he springs to life by nature’s will, with stealth and instinct makes his kill….


abw 23
How can you not love this picture.


abw 24
Jambu Fruit Dove.


abw 25
Netherlands! Simply Beautiful


abw 26








Spring brings more stormy weather, but, more opportunities to take photos:

As I was thinking about the weather in our own part of the world, we all get excited to see what spring can bring.  We have beautiful warm spring like sunny weather one day, and then the next day, we have snow again.  But, that how spring is here in the Rocky Mountains.

Photo taken by Sandy Cottrell.  Spring is like this in the Rocky Mountain area.  The flowers come up, and then you may have a blast of winter.  But, it makes for an interesting photo that is rare.

This is actually the time to get brave and capture the type of photos that are unique.  The spring type flowers that can survive the harsh winter storms that come and go.  They are truly a beautiful contrast…. and something that may be a selling point if you are good enough, and willing enough to capture this type of photo.  Look for those opportunities in the spring.  But what if you don’t get snow in the spring, but just a lot of rain.

Seems that there is in other parts of the world a lot of rain.  How do you go out and get good photos when there is so much rain around you?  There again, some of the best photos are those who are brave enough to get wet.

rainy weather 2

How do you get photos in the rain without damaging your expensive equipment?  The above photo was actually taken from inside the house, but with a large telephoto lens, so that the camera equipment was not out in the rain.  Do you have a large lens that you can do that with?  You could take that kind of photo from your car as well, but, be brave enough to go out in the rain.  You will get some amazing photos.

rain 101

As warmer weather approaches and it seems warmer and easier to get out into the rain, it is not hard to feel like getting out in the rain.  There are some beautiful portraits that you can get in the rain, people having fun in the rain.  There are a lot of people who simply enjoy being in the rain.  My recommendation is that you get a camera that is waterproof.  If you are a serious photographer, you will have something that will never stop you from taking photos.  I keep one in my camera bag, and I have a camera that I feel will perform for me in any type of condition.  There are many out there in the market, but the one I use now is the one from Pentax:

Pentax weatherproof camera

This may not be a current model anymore, but the newer model is even better than this model shown.  Pentax makes great optics, it is a durable camera, and has features that will allow you to do just about anything.  Take it on the ski slope, in the mud, if it gets dirty go rinse it off (that will freak someone out).  It is just one amazing camera.  And it will allow me to take pictures when I just don’t want to take my big DSLR camera.

rain 102

The nice thing about rain pictures is that there is not usually a lot of contrast in your photos because the sun is covered up.  So, you just get even tones in your light meter readings.  So, you can generally just concentrate on composing the photo, getting the features you want of the wet world, the reflections in the puddles, etc.

If people are just enjoying themselves in the rain, then certainly get more photos of people enjoying themselves in the rain:

rain 103
a rainy day has it´s beauty 
Credit: Wolfgang Roschen


rain 104
Rain in Hawaii on 4/14/2018 caused extensive flooding on Oahu island.  Over 2 feet of rain on some of the islands of Hawaii caused flooding.  This amount of rain has not occurred like this even during some of their hurricanes.  

Imagine being able to capture some of these amazing photos.  All because someone thought to have a waterproof camera at the time.  There has to be more than one person out there who takes these type of photos.  When disaster strikes, I am always grateful that there is a photographer who has the sense of mind to take pictures of what is going on, instead of people with their cell phone cameras who don’t really know how to compose or take decent photos.  It is so refreshing to get good pictures during a disaster like this.  PHOTOGRAPHERS PLEASE !  Be prepared to take photos of these disasters so that if documentation is needed there is a good photographer out there doing it.

Get an underwater camera and take photos of what is going on during storms, during volcanic eruption etc.  I don’t care what is going on, we need a real photographer who will take photos of these disasters.



If there is one thing I would like to point out to you in this blog more than anything is have some kind of good camera with you all the time.  There may be times, in storms or harsh conditions, that it does not make sense to bring out the big, nice DSLR.  But, you need a backup camera at that time and I would recommend a waterproof, shock-proof, damage-proof, type camera like the one I have mentioned above.   It may be worth it in the long run if you claim to be a photographer.